by Mary Grace Mauney Winter had arrived, but, this being Georgia, that didn’t mean snow by the foot or ice glazing over the roads. It was just a bit damp, windy, and, by Southern standards, obnoxiously chilly. Most humans were driven to donning a sweater, but Sadie Lynn the Scottish terrier, already having a built-in coat of long silky black fur, had no need of such garments. In fact, given the usual temperatures that she had to contend with as someone who couldn’t take her coat off, the cold was a bit of a relief to her. She only had on her Migrubbie for the sake of style, not insulation. In fact, all she felt as she ran around in the dog park on the brisk and blustery day was a pleasant coolness…and, suddenly, a sharp little tap on her head as something bounced off of it. She looked around to see what had hit her, and found that the nearest potential culprit was a big round acorn.
“Hmm,” she thought to herself, “It must have fallen off a tree. I guess because of the wind.”
That was when another acorn hit her square in the back of the head. And another! And another! And it couldn’t be the wind blowing them either, because they were being hurled from different directions.
“Hey!” Sadie Lynn snarled and whirled around to see who was chucking the nuts, but the only people around were other dogs. And dogs didn’t have the hands, fingers, and thumbs needed to do that.
“Up here!” called a voice from above, and Sadie Lynn lifted her gaze to see three squirrels perched in one of the nearby trees.
“What was that for?!” Sadie Lynn demanded, and then gasped as she recognized who these specific squirrels were, “Scurrius! And Gris! And Skia!”
“We were trying to get your attention,” said Scurrius, tossing an acorn the size of his own head up and down in one paw casually, “Hope it didn’t hurt!”
“Next time, just whistle or something,” Sadie Lynn suggested, rubbing her head with a paw, “What are you doing outside Squirrel City? I thought you never came to the outside world!”
“One thing and one thing alone could drive us here,” said Gris, “Our Migrubbies!”
“But…we made you your Migrubbies,” Sadie Lynn was puzzled, “You’re wearing them right now!”
Just as they had promised they would, Sadie Lynn, Louey, and Sam had placed a jumbo order of Migrubbies at Mister Migs for the squirrels that resided deep in the Georgia woods. The clothing was in exchange for being allowed to leave “The Lost City of Squirrels” even though normally any outsiders who stumbled upon it were made to stay there forever, so that they could not reveal the city’s location to the rest of the world. However, the allure of the quality handmade denim dog gear (re-sized to be squirrel gear) had been enough to make them buck tradition in the name of trendiness. The squirrels had still had to pay in human money for the Migrubbies as well, of course, and to this day Sadie Lynn had no idea where they had gotten the funds to do so, but they did.
“Oh, they’re wonderful!” said Skia, “And the more we wear them, the more they fray, which makes them look even better! But you see…we want more. We want…Tabbies!”
“Oh!” said Sadie Lynn, “Well, you’ll have to come down to the Mister Migs boutique and talk with Mister Migs there about how many you want and by when…I assume you’ll be wanting one for every Migrubbie, which would be one for every squirrel…”
“Yes!” proclaimed Scurrius, “And we want them in time for our Winter Festival!”
“When is that?”
“I believe it overlaps with what the human world calls…”Christmas”
“Oh my gosh!” Sadie Lynn exclaimed, “Scurrius, that’s in a week! And you’ll need over fifty Tabbies! I don’t think we can do that, especially since we’re already working on getting all the party favors ready…”
“Party?” Gris narrowed his eyes, “What party?”
“The Christmas Eve party that we’ll be having for all the pets who are our customers.”
“Why were we not invited to this party?!” demanded Gris, “Is it because we are not pets?!”
“Er, I meant animals…and humans too,” Sadie Lynn corrected herself, “But we did send all of you invitations…just, the mailman returned them because there was no address, and we promised not to tell anyone where to find you!”
“Oh,” Gris couldn’t argue with this, and he looked rather disappointed for it.
“If you have more hands, you can get more work done in less time,” suggested Scurrius, “Since they will be our Tabbies, we will help make them! Come, Skia, Gris! We must gather the squirrels! Sadie Lynn, we shall meet you at Mister Migs tomorrow!”
“Wait! But—" Sadie Lynn tried to shout after them, but the squirrels had already jumped into another tree, and then into the one nearest to that, and so on, until they were out of range entirely.
Just as promised, when Sadie Lynn went to the Mister Migs boutique the following day, it was surrounded by squirrels on all sides. Squirrels on the nearby cars, in the bushes, perched on fire hydrants, fishing in trash cans, covering the sidewalks…squirrels, squirrels, squirrels! Sadie Lynn practically had to wade through them like a gray furry sea to make her way to the boutique door. Many chirped and waved to her as she did, remembering her from her original visit to their city. When she finally got inside the store, there were more squirrels yet! The place was packed to the gills with them!
“Sadie Lynn!” squeaked Miss Blatz, who worked there, “Thank goodness you’re here! They say they’re waiting for you! And that they all want Tabby Vest Accessories for their Migrubbies! Sadie Lynn, just what is going on? How do you know all these strange squirrels?”
For each and every squirrel, both outside and inside the store, was indeed wearing a Migrubbie.
“Uh, well…” Sadie Lynn didn’t know how to explain the situation to Miss Blatz without revealing the secret of Squirrel City…especially since every pair of squirrel eyes in the place were fixed on her. Luckily, Sam came to her rescue, bounding out from the back of the store, “Good, you’re here! We’ve been trying to get a headcount, but they move around too much! I think there’s more than a hundred though, lots more! Come see Mister Migs, he’s meeting with the leader!”
Paying Miss Blatz a hurried farewell, Sadie Lynn dashed to the back of the store, away from all the scary squirrel eyes that she was sure were waiting for her to slip up and say a single word too much to her albino rat friend about how she had met them.
“Ah, Sadie Lynn,” said Mister Migs when she entered his office, “I was just speaking to Scurrius here about his request. He’s made an interesting offer. Remember how, when you first met Miss Blatz, you worked on your own Migrubbie together with her? The squirrels are willing to have a hand in making their own Tabbies…they’ll just need training.”
“My squirrels do not trust many dogs,” said Scurrius, “I was just about to tell your leader Migs that you and Louey, as well as the small rat Sam, would be best as our teachers.”
“Uh…” said Sadie Lynn, “I would love to, but…Mister Migs, what about all the preparations for the Christmas Eve party?”
“I think we can spare you,” said Mister Migs.
“Shall we be invited to these festivities as well?” asked Scurrius eagerly.
“Er…” Mister Migs wasn’t sure if telling this many squirrels ‘no’ was wise, “Well, we had planned for a much…smaller list of guests. There might not be enough food and favors to go around, you see…”
“Ah!” Scurrius understood, “Then my people will bring our own food and favors! As our gift to you!”
“Excellent!” said Mister Migs, “Sadie Lynn, get Sam and Louey, then take as many squirrels as you can back to the manufacturing area! Let’s make some Tabbies!”
Sadie Lynn, Sam, and Louey worked all week to teach the squirrels in groups of ten each how to make a Tabby Vest Accessory. Since Tabbies, like all Mister Migs products, were carefully handmade and built for quality, style, and durability, it was not a task that could be rushed. But the squirrels were very smart, and they had little hands with little jointed fingers just like rats did, and so they caught on quite well.
Meanwhile, MiMee and Miss Blatz were supervising the party preparations. Even with the squirrels bringing their own snacks and favors, there was still a lot to do, not to mention the issue of space---it would be hard to have a cozy little gathering as planned when there were suddenly more than a hundred new guests on the roster. But as Mister Migs had said, this party was for their clientele, and the squirrels as a group were technically their biggest customers by far. Not to mention they’d paid for the huge order of Tabby Vest Accessories in advance! So now in addition to getting catering for pets and humans, decorations set up, and invitations made, MiMee and Miss Blatz also had to start clearing out the Mister Migs warehouse, where the party was now being located instead of the boutique itself, to have room for the hundred-plus squirrels to attend as well. And that meant more decorations, since the warehouse would need more than the boutique to cover up its very un-festive bareness…
Still, as with the squirrels and their teachers, the two tiny pets found a way to make things work. They called in their friends from around the pet community, and asked them for help. Jenner the rat was happy to help with clearing out the warehouse, and made quite a big show of using his muscle in front of Miss Blatz. Justin, his brother, was the perfect consultant for catering, as he knew all the best places for the best food at the best deals. Hazel the dog and Annie the chinchilla were also keen to help with the decorations, though the snobby and delicate Annie preferred simply picking them out to actually putting them up herself.
In other words, everything was coming along just fine, and it looked like they might make the party and the Tabbies by their deadline after all if they just kept at it. And finally, on the night before the party…
The entire supply of Tabbies burned up, along with the party decorations. The squirrels had been roasting chestnuts on an open fire at the Mister Migs warehouse they had been staying in, and it had gotten a little TOO open. No one was hurt…but everything was ruined.
TO BE CONTINUED!